Author Archives: bartgoes

On the Price of Sugars

A producer of fermentation products can choose feedstocks with different purities (Fig. 1).  As the purity goes up, the price is higher, and processing costs are lower, allowing the producer to define economically optimal conditions.  Both refined white sugar and raw sugar are traded.  White sugar is traded in London at the London Futures Exchange (LIFFE) The contract is known as the No 5 contract and is traded in US$/metric ton.  Raw sugar is traded in New York at the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) The contract is known as the No 11 contract and is traded in USc/lb.

The charts of the trade prices for refined white sugar and raw sugar can be obtained easily from the following link:

No published trade prices for feedstocks with lower purities that could be of interest (e.g. molasses, starch, thick beet juice and syrup) have been found.  Without any doubt, if traded, producers of fermentation products should have this information.  In not traded, at least sugar producers know the production cost of purifying the intermediate, from which then a market value can be calculated.

Sugar purity

Figure 1: Feedstock price and processing costs as a function of the purity of different feedstocks (Ref. “Opportunities for the fermentation-based chemical industry. An analysis of the market potential and competitiveness of North-West Europe.”, Deloitte, September 2014).

When analyzing the charts (see Figs. 2 and 3), the following is observed:

Raw sugar (Price in cent/lb.):

The average value varies from 9 cent/lb. in 1991 to 18 cent/lb. in 2016 (determined by using an approximate linear regression).  Actual price (24-feb-16): 14,24 cent/lb.

When converted in $/tn., we obtain the following values: $ 198/tn. – $ 396/tn. – $ 313/tn. (simply multiply by 22).

Trade prices raw sugar

Figure 2: Trading price of raw sugar during the last 25 years (in USc/lb).

White sugar (Price in $/tn.):

The average value varies from $ 275/tn. in 1991 to $ 475/tn. in 2016 (determined by using an approximate linear regression).  Actual price (24-feb-16): $ 405,30/tn.

Trade prices white sugar

Figure 3: Trading price of white sugar during the last 25 years (in US$/Tn).

Combining both charts, by linear regression, we obtain approximately the following values.  The actual value has been included for comparison.


Values in $/tn. 1991 value

(linear regression)

2016 value

(linear regression)

Actual value


White sugar 275 475 405
Raw sugar 198 396 313
Difference 77 79 92

Table 1: Representative values for 1991 and 2016, with the actual value, and comparison between raw and refined white sugar trade values.



In the following report past values and forecasts of up till 2024 are included:

From the tables in the report, the following average values can be calculated (in $/tn.):

 Price in $/Tn. Historic Recent Forecast
NOMINAL VALUES Average 1988 – 2005 Average 2006 – 2016 Average 2017 – 2024
Raw sugar 216,16 385,47 364,41
White sugar 296,12 476,65 441,93
Difference raw / white 79,96 91,18 77,52

Table 2: Average trade prices in the past (1998 – 2005 and 2006 – 2016) and forecasted (2017-2024), including a comparison between raw and refined white sugar trade values.

The forecast value for the period 2017 – 2024 is slightly lower (20 $/tn for raw sugar and 35 $/tn for white sugar) than the average values for the period 2006 – 2016.  If we take into account that these are nominal values, we can speak of a true price reduction for the coming years.



White sugar, in the last 25 years, has a max. price around 800 $/tn. and a min. price around $ 160/tn. (at this moment raw sugar dropped to 88 $/tn., maintaining the previously mentioned difference).

Therefore, both white and raw sugar have highly speculative trade values.  However, the difference between both remains quite constant, having an approximate value of 80 – 90 $/tn.


Additional Information:

Traded values:

Sugar Prices:

Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables:

Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook:

Sugar: World Markets and Trade:

OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-2024:


A description and applications of products obtained from brown and green algae

In this post a first draft is given on a description and the applications of some of the products that can be obtained from brown and green algae.  In the case of the polyphenols, I’ve simply introduced an external link due to the incredible amount of information available, that clearly exceeds the scope of this post.

Compound of interest Compound description / functionality Applications / market segments (for products)
Brown algae
Alginate with different M/G-ratios and derived products: Alginic acid (algin, alginate) is a polysaccharide that is abundant in the cell walls of brown algae. (Pheophyceae, mainly laminariales and fucales) and in specific bacteria (acetylated form). Chemically, it is a linear copolymer with homopolymeric blocks of (1-4)-linked β-D-mannuronate (M) and its C-5 epimer α-L-guluronate (G) residues, respectively, covalently linked together in different sequences or blocks. Alginates are widely used as waterproofing and fireproofing fabrics, as a gelling agent, for thickening drinks, ice cream and cosmetics, as a detoxifier that can absorb poisonous metals from the blood, as food additives (E number from E400 to E405), healthcare products (rheological properties)… Alginates also show health benefits as dermal fibroblast modulators and antitumoral as well.
Monomer: Mannuronic acid Difficult to find a not purely chemical description. No important applications found (yet)
Monomer: Guluronic acid Difficult to find a not purely chemical description. No important applications found (yet)
Aldaric acids, obtained by catalytic oxidation of the monomers Aldaric acids are a group of sugar acids, where the terminal hydroxyl groups of the sugars have been replaced by terminal carboxylic acids, and are characterised by the formula HOOC-(CHOH)n-COOH As standalone chemical. They can be used as diacid monomers for the preparation of assorted polyamides, labeled polyhydroxypolyamides (PHPAs) or Hydroxylated Nylons.
Laminaran The molecule laminaran is a storage glucan (a polysaccharide of glucose) found in brown algae. As a bio-pesticide, it can be used to improve seed germination and protect against foliar fungal infections. Laminaran is claimed to modulate immune responses in mammals. Sulfated laminaran has been shown to have heparin-like properties and to be an elicitor of plant defense reactions against viral infections. Laminaran also has dietary fiber properties.
Mannitol Mannitol (also referred to as mannite or manna sugar) is a white, crystalline solid that looks and tastes sweet like sucrose. The pleasant taste and mouthfeel of mannitol also makes it a popular excipient for chewable tablets.   Mannitol increases blood glucose to a lesser extent than sucrose (thus having a relatively low glycemic index[14]) and is therefore used as a sweetener for people with diabetes, and in chewing gums. Also, it has a very low hygroscopicity- it does not pick up water from the air until the humidity level is 98%. This makes mannitol very useful as a coating for hard candies, dried fruits, and chewing gums.
Fucoidan Fucoidan is a sulfated polysaccharide (MW: average 20,000) found mainly in various species of brown algae and brown seaweed. Fucoidan is used as an ingredient in some dietary supplement products, where it is claimed to be beneficial for cancer prevention, for the prevention of blood clots and for the treatment of gastric ulcers.
Protein Algae is really the premiere sustainable source of raw materials for food and feed. For food and feed: Algae can be cultivated in human-made ponds on otherwise unusable desert land, requiring only sunlight and seawater to grow. It’s about 30 times more productive than soy (and 50 times more productive than corn), but requires only 1 percent as much fresh water. It also has a much higher protein content — up to 70 percent, compared with about 10 percent in corn and 40 percent in soy.
Fucoxanthin It is found as an accessory pigment in the chloroplasts of brown algae and most other heterokonts, giving them a brown or olive-green color. Some metabolic and nutritional studies carried out on rats and mice at Hokkaido University indicate that fucoxanthin promotes fat burning within fat cells in white adipose tissue by increasing the expression of thermogenin. Fucoxanthin is being looked into for its anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and anti-cancer effects. A study has shown that fucoxanthin has strong effects on oxidative stress, oxidative stress-related diseases, and cancers. Fucoxanthin is isolated from a brown algae which has been reported to be a popular health food.
Taurine A conditionally indispensable organic acid, required for protein digestion. Also, 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic acid widely distributed in animal tissues. It is a major constituent of bile and can be found in the large intestine, and accounts for up to 0.1% of total human body weight.[1] Taurine has many fundamental biological roles, such as conjugation of bile acids, antioxidation, osmoregulation, membrane stabilization, and modulation of calcium signaling. It is essential for cardiovascular function, and development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina, and the central nervous system. Taurine is unusual among biological molecules in being a sulfonic acid, while the vast majority of biologically occurring acids contain the more weakly acidic carboxyl group. While taurine is sometimes called an amino acid, and indeed is an acid containing an amino group, it is not an amino acid in the usual biochemical meaning of the term, which refers to compounds containing both an amino and a carboxyl group. Taurine is essential for cardiovascular function, and development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina, and the central nervous system. It also acts as an antioxidant and protects against toxicity of various substances (such as lead and cadmium). Additionally, supplementation with taurine has been shown to prevent oxidative stress induced by exercise. taurine supplementation is possibly beneficial for the prevention of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Dietary taurine has a blood cholesterol-lowering effect in young overweight adults. Furthermore, body weight also decreased significantly with taurine supplementation. Taurine has also been shown to help people with congestive heart failure by increasing the force and effectiveness of heart-muscle contractions. Taurine levels were found to be significantly lower in vegans. In cells, taurine keeps potassium and magnesium inside the cell, while keeping excessive sodium out. In this sense, it works like a diuretic. Because it aids the movement of potassium, sodium, and calcium in and out of the cell, taurine has been used as a dietary supplement for epileptics, as well as for people who have uncontrollable facial twitches. Taurine produces an anxiolytic effect and may act as a modulator or antianxiety agent in the central nervous system by activating the glycine receptor. Taurine is necessary for normal skeletal muscle functioning.
Polyphenols, including the following:
Phlorotannins Phlorotannins are a type of tannins found in brown algae such as kelps and rockweeds[1] or sargassacean species,[2] and in a lower amount also in some red algae.[3] Contrary to hydrolysable or condensed tannins, these compounds are oligomers of phloroglucinol[4] (polyphloroglucinols).[5] As they are called tannins, they have the ability to precipitate proteins. It has demonstrated that phlorotannins can have anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-oxidation, antibacterial, radioprotective and anti-HIV properties. However, in vivo studies on the effects of these compounds are lacking, most of the research having so far been done in vitro.
Phloroglucinols Phloroglucinol is an organic compound that is used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and explosives. It is a phenol derivative with antispasmodic properties that is used primarily as a laboratory reagent. It is also used as a treatment for gallstones, spasmodic pain and other related gastrointestinal disorders. It has a non-specific spasmolytic action on the vessels, bronchi, intestine, ureters and gall bladder, and is used for treating disorders of these organs. It is the main ingredient of the drug Spasfon, commercialized in France, where it is one of the most sold drugs. Phloroglucinol is mainly used as a coupling agent in printing. It links diazo dyes to give a fast black.   It is useful for the industrial synthesis of pharmaceuticals (Flopropione) and explosives (TATB, trinitrophloroglucinol, 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene).   Phloroglucinolysis is an analytical technique to study condensed tannins by means of depolymerisation. Phloroglucinol is a reagent of the Tollens’ test for pentoses. A solution of hydrochloric acid and phloroglucinol is also used for the detection of lignin (Wiesner test). It is also part of Gunzburg reagent, an alcoholic solution of phloroglucinol and vanillin, for the qualitative detection of free hydrochloric acid in gastric juice.
Green algae
Ulvan and derived products: Ulvans are structural acid polysaccharides present in cell wall of green algae (Ulva and Enteromorpha). They are highly sulphated and essentially composed with rhamnose 3-sulfate, xylose, xylose 2-sulfate, glucuronic acid and iduronic acide units. Ulvan presents several potentially valuable biological properties for agricultural, food and pharmaceutical applicationsamong which Anticoagulant activities (heparin like), Antioxydant activities, Antihyperlipidemic activities, Antitumoral activities.
Monomers: rhamnose Rhamnose is an unusual sugar that is found primarily in plants and some bacteria. Unlike most natural sugars, it is found in an L configuration instead of the usual D configuration. It forms a major structural component of plant cell walls and is also bound to other compounds, such as phenolics. Combined with lipids (produced by a bacteria), a natural surfactant is obtained. There are myriad other uses for this sugar. For instance, there is an overexpression system in which the production of the desired gene is triggered by adding sterilized rhamnose to the genetically engineered bacteria. A rhamnose test is available for intestinal permeability in humans. Many prescription drugs, such as non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can cause intestinal damage that manifests as leakage through the intestines. Having patients drink a solution of lactulose and L-rhamnose is one way of testing for this condition.
Monomers: iduronic acid Difficult to find a not purely chemical description. No important applications found (yet)

Most information has been obtained from common sources, such as Wikipedia.